If you are anything like me, you say yes a lot. People ask for your time and you want to be nice, so you say yes. Demands are placed on you, and we willingly accept although we know we are already functioning at full capacity. When we are asked if we are doing ok, feeling ok, and happy with our lives, we quickly answer yes.
Our yes is not always our best answer. Sometimes simply saying yes appears to be the only response, and of course we don’t want to appear rude or stubborn. We want to get along with others with as little conflict possible, and if we say no, then we often become subject to questioning and criticism.
But is this so bad? Why does it matter what anyone thinks about what we say yes or no to?
Learning to say what we really intend to, and express our real needs, can be challenging. We tend to be guarded and even selfish when it comes to our notions of self-care. Appearing too “needy” or “emotional” is socially perceived as a character flaw. Saying NO when the majority of people say yes is often perceived as being difficult.
What we really do by taking comfort in saying NO is establishing our boundaries. Sometimes these boundaries are only known to us. Other times these boundaries are public and we need to stay the course. Either way, learning how to say NO is an important skill that we all need to work on. If we continue to tap dance around our boundaries, we end up feeling resentful and frustrated as our time is not our own.
How can you become comfortable saying NO? How can you work through the pressure of saying yes to every question and request?
- Get clear about your boundaries and time. We cannot establish or maintain our boundaries if we are unaware of them. So begin to sort out your key values and beliefs. What and who is most important to you? How do you prefer to spend your free time? When you can answer these questions, it will become easier to step away and say NO to offers that push your boundaries.
- Assess your goals and steps to reach success. Just as we must firmly establish and guard our boundaries, we must do the same for our goals. If we lack direction, we will spin in circles, saying yes to every request for our time. Instead take time to assess your goals, write them down, and include a clear plan of execution. Following our paths to success can help eliminate unnecessary detours, and we can avoid accepting bids on our time that are not aligned with our boundaries or our goals.
- Understand the importance of self-care. Very often, saying NO is part of taking time for ourselves, and demonstrating self-care. Self-care doesn’t always involve a huge display of action, such as a two-week vacation or spontaneously quitting your job. No, self-care will manifest through careful deliberation of our time and our decision of how to spend our time. It is critical that we say NO to some things, so that we have time for self-care. If any particular request is not connected to your boundaries, goals, and self-care plan, then saying NO may be the best thing you can do.
- Accept that saying NO is not a bad thing. Don’t fall for the trap that saying NO is the worst response you can ever offer. This is a myth, and one of the worst. Saying NO is liberating and gives you control over your daily life, versus allowing everyone else and circumstances to dictate your time. If you say yes to everything, in the end you will feel resentful of others as you watch them firmly stick to their boundaries and goals. Saying NO does not make you a bad person and does not mean that you lack compassion toward others. Saying NO means that you value your time.
- Ignore anyone who criticizes your NO. Saying NO is bound to trigger criticism at one point or another, and you should be prepared for it. Someone will question you or even outright orally attack you for declining their request. Guess what? Who cares? Do not allow their response to your NO to make you feel uncomfortable. And, you do not owe them a response to their negative reaction. Let your NO be your No, and that’s it.
The more that you practice
- Saying NO to the things that push your boundaries;
- Saying NO to offers that do not bring you closer to your goals;
- Saying NO to things that interrupt your self-care plan;
- Saying NO to accepting that saying no is not an option;
- Saying NO and ignoring all criticism surrounding your choice to say NO…
Then it will become easier to identify when you need to say NO and stand firm.
Knowing when and how to say NO does not mean that we stop helping others or doing things that may push us a bit. There will be times when saying NO is completely inappropriate and may actually violate your values as you may want to help someone or share your time. This is ok.
However, as adults, we reserve the right to determine when to say NO and when to say YES. Society does not have authority over this matter and neither should the people around us. We have to develop the confidence and skill to be able to say NO without fear of judgment.
Can you think of something you need to say NO to?
Are you able to take comfort in saying NO more often?